The White Queen in “Alice Through the Looking Glass” boasted that she could believe six impossible things before breakfast. This would be an amazingly useful skill in North Korea — though its repressive régime is more Kafka than Carroll.
I have just enjoyed a series of meetings with senior North Korean officials, during which I had the surreal impression that they were telling me things that I knew to be either contradictory or simply untrue, and they knew them to be untrue, and they knew that we knew. Yet the system obliged them to say these things. Often a reply to a question sounded more like a quotation from a party briefing than a reasoned response. Some examples:
“Juche”: The political philosophy of North Korea — almost a quasi-religion — is “Juche”, which translates roughly as “self-reliance”. They even have an alternative year-numbering system named for it (2013 is…
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